The streets of Manhattan had a rigorous ambiance that Monday evening. People were rushing home from work, talking on their cell phones in their expensive suits, loading trucks and delivering food on bikes. I came from Central NJ to see a Theology on Tap in Connolly's Irish Pub on West 45th Street. The topic was 'The Shroud of Turin, The Case for Authenticity', given by John Ionne, an expert on the Shroud. In such a hectic world, we can so easily get wrapped up in our own concerns; so I wondered if anyone I passed on those streets even cared if the Shroud, which was wrapped around Christ's body after his death, proved Jesus' crucifixion and Resurrection.
As I sat in the packed third floor of the pub, there was one thing that kept me interested in the presentation. Ionne proved that the Shroud was from the Middle East, that it was from the first century A.D. , and that it could belong to no one other than Jesus of Nazareth. But he waited to the very end to show how the Shroud proved that Jesus rose from the dead. As he described how the burial cloth proved how Jesus suffered and hung on the Cross, I hung on to hear if Christ's Resurrection -- not his death -- could be proven. I needed to 'see the nail marks;' I needed proof that satisfied my own strange version of doubt. Proving a resurrection can be difficult, as Ionne pointed out, because we have no instances before or after to check such a claim against. But the physicists and other experts who have examined the Shroud have pointed out certain characteristics regarding the impression of a man upon the burial cloth, characteristics that have no common explanation that is sufficient. The impression appears to be made by the radiance of some kind of light that passed through the cloth. Ionne then reminded the audience of Scripture verses where it's mentioned that Jesus apparently had the power to resonate some kind of light, like at the Transfiguration; or how there was some kind of power or energy that came out of him, like when the woman with a hemorrhage touched him and was healed. Also, of course, Jesus said of himself 'I am the light.' I never took that description of himself so literal. I thought it just meant that he shined light upon truth, led people out of darkness and lit the way to eternal life. But the Shroud seems to point to a deeper reality. There's no other way to describe this impression of Jesus on this ancient burial cloth, except to say that it is made by some kind of clairvoyant energy or light. It's not blood marks (although blood marks are there as well). It isn't any kind of oil from the skin. It's a negative impression like that of a photograph which gets its image from light passing through a lens. This Easter season, it's only fitting to reflect upon the reality of the Resurrection. In John's Gospel we hear of how the 'light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light ... whoever lives the truth comes into the light' (John Chapter 3).
When I left Connolly's to re-enter the streets of NYC, the irony of truth was almost tangible as I noticed, with the colorful lights of Times Square shining nearby, that even if all the experts in the world shined light upon the authenticity of the Shroud, many would still prefer darkness. Everything about our faith would fall apart if Jesus did not truly rise from the dead. If there is no Resurrection, we would no longer just appear to be fools to the rest of the world by saying we're Christian. We would be fools. But if he is risen, well then that changes everything.